Do You Shop Locally?

I understand why shopping online seems to be popular.

Shopping is not always my favorite thing to do. Maybe it comes with age. I recall as a small boy going with my mom (the designated shopper in my family) to the local shopping center or to the grocery store and it was a thrill. Seeing interesting people, the sights, the sounds, the smells and the hunt for the elusive bargain. Today, it seems that I have gotten to the point where shopping is no fun anymore. If I have to go, I find what I need and get out. I am not sure what changed over the years but maybe now I understand why shopping online seems to be popular.

“…Our community has everything you need, just less of it!”

One hundred or more years ago, shoppers had fewer choices of where to buy what they needed. Main Street Mount Airy had a handful of stores that supplied you with clothing, shoes, groceries, household items, hardware, and more. You even had some restaurants downtown (as we do today) to feed the hungry shoppers. Today, Main Street has changed and shopping choices have increased. When newcomers ask me about shopping in our area I always say, “our community has everything you need, just less of it!”

Accepting the fact that we all need to do some shopping from time to time, I wanted to take a moment to talk about shopping locally. Now this is a topic that is familiar with chamber directors, who push this theme at every opportunity. Maybe this is a good time to remind you how important this topic is and how it impacts our community.

Here are some facts about shopping locally:

  • For every $100 spent at a local small business, $67 stays in the community.
  • Local small businesses create local jobs for the community.
  • Shopping local supports entrepreneurs and family owned businesses.
  • Purchases made locally strengthen the local economy.
  • Customer service is generally better at a small, local business.
  • If something goes wrong with a purchase made locally, you can almost always track down the manager and get the issue resolved.

Today it is reality.

The retail industry is changing in the US and across the globe. Some years ago, if someone had mentioned to you that retail leaders like Sears and Macy’s were filing for bankruptcy, you would have thought it was a hoax. Today it is reality. Online shopping is no longer a trend. It is now a reality.

It is all about convenience, not price.

Now we have to ask ourselves a question why. Why have so many shoppers gone the way of Amazon (and others)? In my opinion, I think it is all about convenience, not price. Before Amazon, if you needed dog food or diapers at midnight, you had to wait until the next day to head to the store (Hon, can you stop at the store and pick up some dog food?). Now, you can order what you need online, 24/7/365 and have it shipped to your door. Some online retailers even offer same day delivery! Wow, I wonder what Mr. Macy or Mr. Sears would say about that? Yes, it is about convenience and I dare say many are willing to pay more for that convenience. Crazy.

So here is my pitch to consumers on shopping locally:

1. The next time you make a purchase, any purchase, large or small, think about a local store.

2. Visit the store and ask to speak to the manager. Let them know you are shopping there because they are a local business. They will appreciate it.

3. Visit our main street merchants, even if you don’t make a purchase. Get to know them. (Tip: there is parking on Main Street).

4. If your need an item and cannot find it, ask them. They may be able to order it for you.

5. Make a pledge not to order anything online for a month and buy it locally. Many times, what you see on a computer screen or your smartphone is not what arrives at your door.

Watching late night TV recently, I saw a commercial for an online car dealer. “Yes sir, you can pick the make, model and color of your dream car, on your computer and have it delivered to your home.” Ok, would someone actually invest in a car (maybe one the biggest purchases you will make) and not go to the dealer, talk to a real person and test drive the car?

You will want that local dealer at the other end of the phone line.

My advice would be to find a local dealer, look over the inventory, pick a car and make the purchase locally. Believe me, when that car breaks down (and it will), you will want that local car dealer at the other end of the phone line.

Shopping locally helps you. Shopping locally helps the merchant. Shopping locally helps their employees. Finally, shopping locally helps our local economy and our community.

Written by: Randy Collins, Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce President & CEO
Published in The Mount Airy News Sunday, March 15, 2020